Wednesday, October 21, 2015

A Trick or A Treat?

It arrives at the end of every October and the evidence of that reality is seen almost everywhere in the culture. And although it was once celebrated mostly by younger kids, it  has shifted into a full blown event for adults and countless millions who seek a  reason to dress up, party and just escape  from the daily routines and stresses of everyday life. And of course we refer to Halloween.

This seemingly minor holiday is currently anything but. In fact, it has grown exponentially.  Retail stores begin hiring additional help for the entire holiday season beginning with this bizarre event. In the last few decades temporary specialty stores have risen up just to meet its demands. And what are those demands? That can be seen by the fact that Halloween is today the second-largest commercial holiday, with only Christmas being ahead of it. Americans will spend an average of $24.00 per person on costumes this year alone. 

In addition to costumes, home decorations are a major part of the season and consumers are expected to spend around a billion and a half dollars this time around. Just about seventy-five feet from where I sit stands a black, air-filled black cat, about the size of a large SUV, complete with lighted eyes that glow after dark. This is typical of countless displays nationwide that are today common throughout the month of October.

The growth of the Halloween industry in these days is being fueled greatly by young adults. In recent years, the young adult age group is most likely to celebrate Halloween. Over half of those in the 18-24 year-old age group are likely to throw or attend a party while about 40% of people plan to wear a costume of some sort.

Without question, Halloween has become a very big deal in America. But is that good, bad or simply neutral when all things are considered? And does the phrase 'Treat or Treat' have a more significant meaning than most might know? Also, considering the darker subject matter that makes up a great portion of the entire scene, what should be the reaction of those who are spiritually-minded Christians to it all?

These are good questions that I could wade into here. But that has been already done by this ministry through David Virkler who was its founder and director. So to gain a biblical perspective on this hugely popular, but very strange celebration, please click here on our ministry website to read his commentary. And please contact us for a printed copy if you desire one for your self, church or group. 

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)
 Bill Breckenridge

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Tragedy In Oregon - Triumph In Christ

Just about a week ago, the nation was staggered as news surfaced out of a small town in southwest Oregon. It was an all too familiar story of horror and indescribable pain after a lone gunman opened fire on a local community college killing  9 students before apparently killing himself as police arrived. Again it is a scenario that has become all too common in America and a terrible reminder of past atrocities now synonymous with names like Columbine High, Sandy Hook Elementary and Virginia Tech. 

This time the target was at Umpqua  Community College, a school with a total enrollment of about 5,000 located  in Roseberg Oregon. The deadly rampage began approximately 10:40 a.m. Pacific time. The details of exactly what occurred were a bit slow in coming since so many surviving witnesses were in shock. But the perpetrator was 26-year-old Christopher Harper Mercer reported to have been born in Los Angeles County in 1989.  

Mercer had enlisted in the U.S. Army back in  2008. But officials said he was discharged for "failing to meet the minimum administrative standards to serve”. Others have stated that he recently wrote that he was in a bad way, depressed and sullen. He also supposedly lamented that he did not have a girlfriend and felt he had no life. A note found by law enforcement at the scene said the deceased gunman  felt the world was against him.  Is was also reported that he studied other mass shooters before becoming one himself and had left a note that he’d be “welcomed in hell and embraced by the devil” after committing the brutal event.

After the shootings we heard about tightening the current gun laws, making new ones and how these weapons must be removed from citizens if this kind of thing is ever to be controlled. We heard about putting armed guards in schools nationwide to protect the innocent. We heard about the need for preventive counseling and dealing with the survivors of unthinkable traumas. We heard all manner of external reasons for why someone might be driven to do such a thing. 

But there are a few things, unfortunately,  that we are heard much less about. First and foremost, that these kinds of vile acts are typically a result of good old fashioned sin. When did you hear that word or concept discussed in all of the media coverage? Author and evangelist Alex McFarland said,  "There is a spiritual lesson to be learned and that America needs God. All people, as we know, need a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, but our nation needs to reacquaint itself with the God of our founders and with the Ten Commandments.This is about good and evil and more than it has to do with gun control. This killer would have chosen any means to carry out his motive. The point is, without the God of the Bible, there is no hope.”

With Christ, we have everything we will ever need – hope, purpose, a clear compass of right and wrong along with the restraining influence available in God’s Holy Spirit. And yet, this is the kind of logic and wisdom that seems totally missing from the political debate or the media’s discussions on this entire subject. I guess that would be just far too religious to tolerate?

There is also something else that quickly surfaced from the massacre, but that has not gotten nearly the attention it deserves. It has to do with some survivors reporting that the shooter was questioning and targeting Christians. Those who answered yes to being Christians were immediately shot in the head. Those who said they were not,  were often shot in a lesser fatal part of the body  If that indeed was true, at least a good part of why this occurred was religious persecution - particularly against followers of Jesus Christ - something happening more and more in a variety of venues in America. 

Could someone be mentally off enough to do this only because they are that  ill? Of course that is possible. But the impact of human sin cannot be ruled out, especially when considering all the factors here. Far more often than not, crime involves human depravity and a heart that is under the domination of sin. James 1:13-15 reads as follows: “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin , when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” And Jeremiah 17:9 declares, "The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?"  To ignore the reality, influence,  and consequences of human sin is to fully miss the major point when something like the mass murder in Oregon occurs.

 So in the light of yet another shocking mass shooting on an American campus, exactly what are we to think and react as Christians? Our initial reaction should be compassion for the suffering and fervent prayer for the families of the victims, the shooter’s family and everyone close who will be going through some very dark days ahead.

Then, as Christians, we must be ready to give an answer for the faith and hope we have. The evidencing of that hope to those who are hopeless without Christ. This is spelled out in 1 Peter 3:15. “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” Our hope, even in the darkest times, should cause others to see it clearly enough to ask us of source of the light shining within  us.

We must also  forgive others despite how difficult that may be at times. Colossians 3:13 declares this in no uncertain terms stating, “If anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you , so you also must do.”  Must does not mean maybe. Christianity is based on forgiveness and, for those who have been forgiven all, there must be the full attempt and willingness on their part to forgive others.

 And then too,  must trust God’ even when things are beyond bleak knowing the reality of  Ephesians 1:11. Paul writes and declares that our Creator all-powerful and all-knowing ‘works all things according to the counsel of His will.’  

Finally, we must resist the temptation for vengeance. This is spelled out in Romans 12 where we read, "Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord.'"  This too can be very difficult when gross evil is committed and great suffering inflicted. But it is a direct commandment none the less and it must therefore  be possible for those who are in Christ and walking closely with Him.

Pray for the family and friends of those who just lost loved ones in Oregon. Pray for healing and an attitude of forgiveness. Pray that good will  rise from the ashes of evil in Roseberg. And especially pray that many will find Christ as Savior in the coming days there because some near the crisis “sanctified the Lord God in their hearts, and were ready to give an answer to everyone who asked them a reason for that blessed hope that is in and shines forth from them.

 "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.  And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die."  (John 11:25-26)
Bill Breckenridge